Mexico applauds California rejection of pot legalization

AFP, 11/4/2010

Mexico on Wednesday welcomed a vote against the legalization of marijuana in the US state of California, after criticizing the United States for sending contradictory messages on drug use.

Californians rejected Proposition 19 – one of a series of referendums held simultaneously with mid-term polls – by 57 percent against 43 percent in favor, according to early projections.

“This result goes in the direction Mexico has followed on the prevention and treatment of addictions,” Health Minister Jose Angel Cordova told the Televisa network, a day after the California vote.

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California’s Proposition 19 Falls Short, but Moves the Marijuana Policy Debate Forward

John Walsh, Washington Office on Latin America, 11/3/2010

The California ballot initiative that would have legalized marijuana under state law was defeated at the polls Tuesday, garnering about 46 percent of the vote.  Over the course of the campaign, the measure achieved notoriety in Latin America , and provoked anxiety on the part of the Colombian and Mexican governments in particular.  WOLA has long promoted more effective and humane drug policies in the Americas, and in recent years we have seen the debate begin to open, not least inresponse to Prop 19.  So what does Prop 19’s defeat foretell for the debate over alternatives to marijuana prohibition?

As a practical matter, the likely impact of Prop 19’s passage on Colombian and Mexican illicit drug production and trafficking operations would have been slight.  But at the symbolic level, Prop 19 took on great importance, in light of the U.S. government’s role as chief architect and promoter of the “war on drugs,” including the marijuana prohibition regime embedded in the UN drug conventions.  To be sure, marijuana legalization under state law – even a state as large as California – wouldn’t have immediate consequences for federal law and for the U.S. commitment to marijuana prohibition under the global drug control system.  But the measure’s mere presence on the California ballot generated enormous attention in Latin America, so it’s fair to ask what the voting results may signify.

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Californian Voters Reject Prop. 19

Hemispheric Brief, 11/3/2010

California voters rejected Proposition 19 Tuesday, a ballot initiative which would have made the state the first in the US to allow limited amounts of marijuana to be sold legally for recreational purposes. With ninety percent of precincts reportingthis morning, some 54% of voters voted against measure. Some 46% came out in favor.

According to the LA Times, the principal failure lay in the the fact that voters under the age of 25 – the initiative’s principal backers – “did not turn out in unusually high numbers” on election day. In fact, the San Francisco Bay area was the only part of the state to see a majority favor Proposition 19 – and even there the majority appears to have been slimmer than expected.

Nevertheless, drug policy advocates saw many bright spots in the California campaign which, using the LA Times words once again, “transformed talk about legal pot from a late-night punch line into a serious policy matter.” Stephen Gutwillig, the California director of the Drug Policy Alliance says Prop. 19, even in defeat, marked a “watershed moment” by “moving marijuana legalization into the mainstream of American politics.” Legalization advocates are expected to bring the measure up for a second vote in California in 2012 while it’s likely that similar initiatives will be placed before voters in Washington, Colorado, and Oregon as well. But to win two years from now, advocates may have to harvest more targeted in-state support. As I have written here, the measure drew significant national and international attention over the last months, but, quoting the Times:

“[T]he opposition was broad…Men and women opposed it. Voters of every race opposed it. The campaign had hoped black and Latino voters would see the measure as a way to end disproportionate arrests of minorities caught with marijuana.”

If nothing else, Prop. 19 has gotten people talking.

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Study: Legalizing Pot In Calif. Won’t Hurt Cartels

NPR, 10/30/2010

On Tuesday, California voters will decide whether to legalize marijuana in the state. Supporters of Proposition 19 say legalization will undercut the profits made by Mexican drug cartels and eliminate the need for violent crimes. But a recent study by the RAND Corp. finds the overall hit to the cartels could be minimal.

Beau Kilmer, the lead author of the study and co-director of the RAND Drug Policy Research Center, tells NPR’s Guy Raz that if California legalizes marijuana, the price of marijuana could drop by at least 80 percent.

“You are getting rid of the risks,” he says. When you buy drugs, “part of what you are doing is compensating the drug dealer for the risk of arrest. That goes away with full legalization.”

But, Kilmer says, marijuana sales probably only account for 15 to 26 percent of the cartels’ total drug export revenue and the cartels will lose only the California market. He estimates drug export revenues will be reduced only by 2 to 4 percent.

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California’s Prop 19 Fuels Mexico’s Debate On Drugs

NPR, 10/28/2010

When California voters go to the polls Tuesday to decide whether to legalize recreational marijuana use, the ballot initiative will be closely watched in Mexico.

In California, supporters of Proposition 19 say one reason to legalize pot in the state is to help reduce the violent illegal drug trade south of the border, where Mexico’s drug war has claimed some 29,000 lives over the past four years.

But in Mexico, there is no clear consensus on how the passing of Proposition 19 would affect the Mexican drug trade.

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Mexico’s Calderon: US not doing enough in drugs war

BBC  News, 10/27/2010

Mexican President Felipe Calderon has told the BBC the US should do more to reduce the demand for drugs that is fuelling violence in Mexico.

He told the HARDtalk programme that more should also be done to stem the flow of illegal weapons from the US. More than 28,000 people have died in drug violence in Mexico since 2006.

Meanwhile, President Calderon and other regional leaders have urged Californian voters to reject moves to legalise marijuana in their state.

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Pelosi: Mexican Officials Lobbying Against Pot Legalization

Huffington Post, 10/26/2010

Nancy Pelosi

Senior Mexican government officials have lobbied U.S. leaders against legalizing marijuana in California, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (who represents San Francisco) told HuffPost. The opposition to Proposition 19 further complicates what is already a disputed relationship between legalizing marijuana in the United States and reducing cartel violence in Mexico, much of which is fueled by the pot trade.

“I don’t know if the state is ready to go that way,” Pelosi said of legalizing pot in an interview in her Capitol office, “and I have the Mexicans coming in here and saying, ‘Oh, my gosh, this is going to be problematic if in fact there’s the decriminalization of marijuana.” Mexican officials worry that legalization would lead to increased demand, which could funnel more money to the cartels. Backers of the initiative, however, note that under legalization, regulated production would take place within the state rather than in Mexico, cutting out the cartels.

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